Seychelles is actually a group of more than 100 islands and islets scattered over a 600 mile stretch of the Indian Ocean. The three principle islands are Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue. These three islands are granite while the rest of the islands are largely coral. Mahe is the largest and most populous of the islands, comprising 80% of the nation’s people.
Most Seychellois are descended from French settlers and the African slaves who were imported by the French to work the early plantations. There are a minority of British, Chinese, and Indian settlers. Most Seychellois speak French Creole.
Aldabra in Seychelles is the world’s largest atoll and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to more than 150,000 giant land tortoises, five times more than the Galapagos Islands. The atoll has 13 islands and makes up 33% of Seychelles’ land area. Many tortoises have been moved to Curieuse, a reserve of giant tortoises.
Praslin Island is the second largest island in Seychelles. It is famous for Vallee de Mai, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vallee de Mai features rare and endemic coco de mer palms, which grow giant double-nutted coconuts.
St Anne Marine National Park
St Anne Marine National Park encompasses the islands of Cerf, Long, Round, St. Anne, Beacon, and Moyenne. The park is home to a rich teem of corals and fishes that can be viewed by taking a glass-bottomed boat tour. The islands of Cerf and Round are renowned for their cuisine; Cerf features fine Creole food, while Round has some amazing tuna steaks.
The island of Therese can be reached by taking a five-minute boat trip from Port Glaud. The island harbors rock pools that are inhabited by large colonies of tortoises.
Birdwatching is a major draw in Seychelles. A popular destination is Cousin, which is an island about two hours by boat from Mahe. It is a nature reserve that features rare bird species such as the Seychelles toc-toc, brush warbler, and fairy tern. The best time to visit is between April and May, when more than 1.25 million birds from around the world come to this island to nest.
Bird Island is another major birdwatching destination. Nearly two million sooty terns migrate here and breed between May and October.
La Digue, which is about 30 minutes from Praslin and three hours by boat from Mahe features the rare black paradise flycatcher.
Fregate, an easterly granite island, is home to the almost extinct magpie robin.
Aride is another granite island, but in the north. It has vast colonies of seabirds that migrate to the island and nest from October to April; you’ll find roseate terns, lesser noddies, and other tropical birds.
Beaches and Water Sports
Mahe has more than 70 superb powdery white beaches that are decorated by coconut palms and in the background by lush vegetation and forested peaks. There are also many island beaches that can be explored by renting a yacht, power boat, or cabin cruiser. The waters of Seychelles are amazingly clear. There are more than 920 species of fish and 100 species of coral in the coastal waters, making it a great place for underwater photography, scuba diving, and snorkeling. In fact, underwater experts from around the globe visit Seychelles every year in November to attend the SUBIOS underwater festival.
Desroches, which is the largest island on the Amirantes archipelago is probably the most popular island beach destination in Seychelles. It is the scene of waterskiing, fishing, sailing, scuba-diving, windsurfing, and people riding water scooters. There are innumerable tropical fishes of different kinds and amazing dive sites around underwater caves, tunnels, and sea cliffs. The best time to dive is from September to May when the visibility is the best.
St Anne National Marine Park, which encompasses six islands, is located off the coast of Mahe and a great place to snorkel and dive.
Denis on Bird Island offers the best deep-sea fishing. Because Bird Island is located at the edge of the continental shelf, the sea floor here drops rapidly 5,000 feet down. Marlin can be caught from October to December.
For salt-water fly fishing, most tourists go to the Desroches islands and Alphonse.
Seychelles was originally uninhabited. It was first settled by the French in 1770. The French settlers imported African slaves to work the sugar plantations. Spice gardens were also planted.
In 1794, Seychelles was captured by the British. In the 19th century, the British brought to the islands a large number of Africans liberated from slave ships. In 1976, Seychelles gained independence and became a one-party state. Multiparty elections were introduced in 1992.
Today, Seychelles is among the more stable countries in Africa. Seychellois earn their living by fishing, working the coconut plantations, and cultivating spices such as vanilla and cinnamon. Tourism has become an important industry in the economy in recent years, largely eliminating the unemployment problem that once plagued the country.